Editor’s note: This post was originally from March, 2020, but still holds pertinent today.
I’m a co-founder at Trybe. We are a movement gym based in Hong Kong, and have been dealing with the threat of Covid-19 since late January.
In some ways, we are luckier — Hong Kong has survived other highly infectious diseases. Our community has been quite vigilant and supportive of us as a company. We have not closed the gym since the outbreak started and have conducted several highly stringent measures to help keep our team and community safe.
Publishing this on the request of several friends/fellow gym owners. My heart goes out to you; this is truly not an easy situation to survive.
Sanitization and Screening
If you want to stay open, these are two protocols you MUST abide by. Not doing so would be irreparably irresponsible to your brand, to your coaches, and to your members. I do not recommend that ANY gym owner stay open unless you can do this.
- ** if your government has mandated a lockdown, please, please abide by it. Do not try to open up ‘secretly’. We have social media.
- ***Use this as a guide on what-to-do, AFTER you get to reopen. Use this time to figure out a plan of action.
“Can I Even Open Up My Gym?”
Honestly, it depends. You must be able to:
- Thoroughly disinfect your gym daily.
- Have access to supplies where you can disinfect equipment after every single use.
- Sanitize common/high traffic areas at least every 3 hours (ideally once an hour).
We use rubbing alcohol (70%), diluted bleach, natural household disinfectants, eucalyptus/tea tree oil on different areas in our gym. We deep clean at least once a day, sometimes twice. We also have a dedicated cleaner.
All equipment is wiped down before and after use. Because we have kids and ‘soft’ equipment, we cannot use bleach directly on to equipment. But we do use disinfectant sprays on hard surfaces like door handles and other common areas. Our building sanitizes the elevators once every hour so we don’t have to do that. We also have folks take off their shoes before they come in to the gym. Toilet seats are germy; provide a cleaner for that and make a sign to remind folks to close the lid BEFORE they flush.
We use at least a liter of disinfectant supplies daily, for 3000 sq ft gym. Some days it’s more. If you are unable to procure this, I strongly suggest you limit the group classes you have.
There are other more comprehensive guides on the internet but this is, more or less, what we’ve been doing for the past 6 weeks.
“What Do I Need To Provide For My Coaches?”
- Hand Sanitizer
- Masks — at least for your front desk staff / receptionists, etc. I make it mandatory for my coaches who teach kids but it’s up to them if they want to wear it when they teach adult classes. Wearing a mask while exercising is incredibly challenging. I don’t recommend them if you have underlying issues like asthma. I know this is a contentious issue but I think every little bit helps.
- Reminders — We have signs every reminding people to wash their hands before coaching or taking class.
- A common sanitization station with hand sanitizers, disinfectants, and masks — this is available for everyone so that they feel comfortable coming to class.
I don’t need to ask our coaches to wash their hands for 20 seconds, etc because they are already doing it. And our coaches are very well informed (updated almost daily) on what’s happening. You might not be so lucky..so time for a good old team meeting.
“What Do I Look Out For?”
The survey of 55,924 laboratory confirmed cases of Covid-19 in China showed that the two most common symptoms are a fever and a dry cough. So, look out for that. Screw the fake or racist news — it’s not an Asian disease that only targets people who eat bats.
Almost 90% of cases had a fever and 68% had a dry cough. That’s pure, useful data, right there.
What do you need to get?
- Thermometer. At Trybe, we look out for temperatures above 37.2. We also test 2–3x sometimes. Kids sometimes have higher temperatures.
- A list of places where you can get tested for Covid-19. Your staff might not know the closest place where you can get tested, so having a list handy, is super super useful.
If the person has both a higher temperature than usual and a dry cough, ask them to leave and see a doctor/get tested right away.
The Asymptomatic Cases
The WHO reported that people with Covid-19 generally develop signs and symptoms, including mild respiratory symptoms and fever, on an average of 5–6 days after infection. So people who are carriers often don’t show symptoms.
This is where I believe, you, as an educated and informed person, can make a difference.
This is where statistics come to play. Statistically speaking, if your student or coach has returned from a higher risk country within the last 14 days, they are more likely to be carriers of Covid-19. This is why countries are now issuing travel bans or lock downs.
- Ask your students to fill out a mandatory travel questionnaire. This applies for folks who have not been traveling but may be in close contact with friends or family who have.
- Anyone who has been to a higher risk country (where the rate of infection doubled in less than 7 days) should be asked refrain from coming to class for 2 weeks.
This is, by far, the toughest part of the job. I have personally called, emailed, and spoken to many of our students and the conversations are hard.
But your priority is to keep yourselves, your families, and your coaches safe. And I believe a tough screening process will also trigger your students to behave more responsibly.
Social distancing has worked to help keep the infection rates low in countries like Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Macau. We had terrible class numbers in the first week — I remember fielding about 20 calls in one day to students who had recently returned back from mainland China and even quarantining my own staff members.
It was really tough. But as of March 16, 2020, we have zero cases of Covid-19 in our small community of coaches and students. This is now the hard part; continuing to practice vigilance after living with it for so long. Schools are still closed here. A few community centers and public spaces have started to reopen but theaters, events, and mass gatherings are still cancelled.
I know so many people who have sacrificed more to keep their loved ones safe. This is not a big price to pay, to ask your students to stay away if they feel unwell or have returned home recently from travelling.
Trustworthy Sources of Information
I don’t read the news unless a student sends it to me or I just happen to scroll through Instagram when I’m updating it or replying to a new customer.
As a business owner, you should be working to eliminate decision fatigue. Pick good inputs and choose truly reputable sources of information.
These are the following sources/ websites we are currently using at Trybe:
endCoronavirus.org is built and maintained by a team of scientists and collaborators fro New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI), MIT, Harvard, Brandeis and other universities nationally and internationally. They are working around the clock to monitor, communicate, and beat this.
2. John Hopkins Center for Health Security
We get their daily newsletter updates and it’s been pretty useful.
https://gisanddata.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6. It’s a nice dashboard to look at data on a whole but frankly awful on mobile.
A daily aggregator and it has been a great way to crosscheck factually
Now it shows you the number of cases doubled and how many days. Eg: Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Norway, the UK, all these countries had their number of cases doubled in 3 days. Japan had their number of cases doubled in 8 days.
A nice summary of updated news by day, with linked news sources and decent mobile interface.
“I have to close my gym. What should I do with our members?”
Each gym has a different policy to this. I recommend extending your students’ memberships, as a gesture of goodwill. Definitely use technology and social media to keep in touch and encourage them to stay healthy. Lots of creative ways around this!
“How do I stay healthy?”
I’m still working on this. Extra sleep (7–8 hours minimum) and Vitamin C, but otherwise, I have not changed my diet. I have stepped up my self care routine considerably and limited social interactions, which is very hard for me.
“What about holding classes Outdoors?”
I see you..trying to sneak around this. Don’t try to circumvent your government’s recommendations. It’s called social DISTANCING for a reason.
If you gather in groups of less than 5, and you all know you are healthy and have not been in contact with a possibly infected person, by all means. Make sure to have hand sanitizer, wash your hands before, and after and wipe everything down.
I don’t recommend it. I myself limited how much I was training and going outside for the first 3–4 weeks. In fact, I am still limiting the places/ gyms that I train at and I make note everyday, of where I’ve been. Should I get infected, I would want to inform all of the folks I’ve been in contact with, straightaway.
Am I paranoid? Maybe, but beginning in February, South Korea “posted the precise movements (without names) of everyone who tested positive — everything from the seat numbers they occupied in movie theaters to the restaurants where they stopped for lunch.” It is somewhat intrusive (the information was obtained from cellphone records, credit card receipts and other private data that the government is authorized to collect in a health emergency.) but folks who were at risk were notified immediately and were able to go get tested.
Crucially, the quarantine/ social distancing prevents others from being infected. Hong Kong updates a list of buildings where folks who test positive for Covid-19 live and some of them have wristbands. But to be honest, folks here are very good about adhering to the 14 day self quarantine.
Communication and transparency is key, to prevent mass infection. The last thing I want for my gym is to become a center of mass infection. You are in the business of health and you need to lead from the forefront.
Please step up and be responsible, or shut down and wait it out.
I hope this helps!
Disclaimer: All of this is published on personal opinion only, not on behalf of Trybe. I’m sharing things as factually accurate as I can, but I am also human and not perfect. Please ask, don’t hate.